Met gives 'Barber' a cut in English version
In this Dec. 14, 2012 publicity photo, Alek Shrader as Count Almaviva (in disguise as Don Alonso) and John Del Carlo as Dr. Bartolo are seen in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," during rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard)
NEW YORK (AP) — For the first time since Rossini's most famous work was given its Metropolitan Opera premiere in 1883, "The Barber of Seville" is being presented by the company in English rather than Italian, a shortened holiday version intended to entice families during school break.
To cut "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" down to about 90 minutes around an intermission, the Met hired poet J.D. McClatchy to write a rhyme-filled libretto. For once there were giggles around the house Wednesday when Figaro sang "It just so happens all the cheese has landed on your macaroni!" The original, "sui maccheroni il cacio v'e' cascato," usually passes without reaction.
McClatchy also wrote the text for the Met's English-language version of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Translating the libretto written by Cesare Sterbini for Rossini is a tougher task, primarily because the rhythm of Italian is difficult to replicate in English, with its harsher consonants.
In this Dec. 14, 2012 publicity photo, from left, Isabel Leonard as Rosina, Rodion Pogossov as Figaro and Alek Shrader as Count Almaviva are seen in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," during rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard)
The difficulty in maintaining coloratura runs can be heard in Almaviva's closing aria, "Ah, il piu' lieto, il piu' felice," here "Love forever! Love forever! Nothing makes a man so happy as two hearts that beat together." It works, but the fit is not as smooth.
"Largo al factotum" becomes "You need a barber in Seville," and Rosina's "Una voce poco" changes to "In my heart I hear his voice." The famous overture is trimmed and verses are cut throughout along with some arias. Early on, Bartolo opines to Rosina about an aria from a new composition: "An opera! Stuff and nonsense! Powdered women and paunchy men all squealing about nothing anyone understands." The audience cackled.
Soprano Patricia Risley, taking over on short notice from an ill Isabel Leonard, was a winning Rosina with a smile, an endearing demeanor and an attractive coloratura. Pleased to have gotten through, she made a big hand motion to wipe her brow during the curtain calls and then gave a huge hug to conductor Yves Abel.